How do I become an adviser for studying abroad?

Published , Globe and Mail: Nine to Five

THE QUESTION

I’m very interested in entering the field of study abroad as an adviser/program co-ordinator at a university, but have no direct advising experience (though plenty of other relevant experience). I am thinking that a valuable way to gain experience and know-how in the field would be by volunteering in a study-abroad office. Would it be presumptuous to send an e-mail to the most appropriate person with a compelling cover letter and résumé offering to volunteer a few hours a week? Or is it more appropriate to ask for an informational interview first?

THE ANSWER

You are certainly on the right track in making inroads into your new career. It isn’t about appropriateness whether you send an e-mail or set up a meeting first, but an advice call is more direct with less wasted time and back-and-forthing with e-mails.

Approach a local university study-abroad department and ask for an advice call with the director explaining why you want to meet. You needn’t hide the fact you want to volunteer.

Nothing is more effective than a face-to-face meeting with a decision maker. With an advice call you will have a dialogue and can present ideas they may not have considered. You can dazzle and charm, show passion and explain the benefits of having you as a volunteer.

Be prepared to talk 30 per cent of the time, and listen 70 per cent. Have questions prepared so you only take 25 to 30 minutes of their time, and mention that timing in the phone call when you call to set the appointment.

Prepare a 90-second presentation about yourself with an example or two of your professional wonderment! Then ask, what would you suggest? Somewhere in the meeting talk about what you can do for them – the benefits they would derive in having you on board. Follow up with a thank-you card or letter.

Colleen Clarke, Career Specialist, Professional Resume Writer, and Corporate trainer.